Monday, August 5, 2019

Pronouncing "Cabell"

The source of the rhymed couplet, "Tell the rabble / My name is Cabell" (discussed briefly in my previous post), is still unknown.  It is usually mentioned as something that Cabell told an unnamed journalist, but Bill Lloyd (of the excellent website for all-things Cabell, The Silver Stallion) notes that the closest actual source by Cabell that we have for this is a letter from Cabell to Sinclair Lewis dated 26 November 1917:
And the name of the sulky beast is Cabell, in ironic consonance with rabble. I don't wonder you did not know, since I was forced to spend two years in New York under the alias of Cáy-bel and Cay-béll, through the utter impossibility of persuading any Northerner to pronounce my actual name.  (Between Friends: Letters of James Branch Cabell and Others, p. 13)
The James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University produced a nice button with the couplet. (See also their website for further information.)

Thanks to Bill Lloyd!